Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Countdown to Opening Day, by the Numbers...the number 11

As Opening Day is less than 24 hours away, we have reached the #11 in our look back at baseball and the numbers that make it so special.

#11, in baseball...

Toby Harrah of the Texas Rangers, catcher Don Slaught of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Minnesota Twins Chuck Knoblach.

#11 is the 1995 National League MVP, Barry Larkin of the Cincinnati Reds, and Jim Fregosi of the California Angels.

The Nationals 3rd baseman Ryan Zimmerman wears #11, as does the Yankees Brett Gardner, and Jimmy Rollins, the 2007 N.L. MVP.

The Hall of fame is well represented by the number 11, with the great screw ball pitcher of the New York Giants, Carl Hubbell, and the ChiSox terrific shortstop, Luis Aparicio.

The #11 was worn by the Seattle Mariners Edgar Martinez, arguably the best designated hitter in baseball history,

Garry Sheffield, Jeff Kent, Hal McRae, Tim McCarver, and Royce Clayton all wore #11 in their big league careers.

#11 means more to me than any other baseball number, because it was the number worn by my hero, Detroit Tigers catcher Bill Freehan.

Freehan was a bonus baby, signed out of the University of Michigan, where he played both baseball and football.

When Freehan left Michigan for the Tigers, he held the single season Big Ten record for batting average, hitting .585 in 161. As of 2010 that record still stands.(Big Ten record book)

                                                          Highest batting average:
                                         .585 Bill Freehan, C, MICH, (24-for-41), 1961

Bill Freehan came up to the Tigers briefly in 1961, wearing uniform #19, and then after a season in the minors he came back to Detroit in 1963, and he would never leave.

For the most part of his14 big league seasons Bill Freehan was the best catcher in the American League, is not in all of baseball.

Freehan was the first catcher to win five consecutive Gold Gloves, from 1965-69, and when he retire his .993 fielding percentage was the best in the history of the baseball, and it's a record that would stand for 20+ years after his final year in baseball.

An 11 time All-Star, Freehan collected 1,591 hits and smacked 200 home runs in the big leagues, and was a member of the Tigers World Series Championship team in 1968.

In game 5 of the '68 series, the Tigers were losing to the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0, and were down 3 games to 1 when Freehan cemented his reputation as the best defensive catcher in baseball.

Lou Brock had doubled leading off the Cards 5th inning, and as he tried to score the 4th run of the afternoon for the Cards, Freehan received left fielder Willie Horton's throw, and blocking home plate, tagged out Brock, who tried to score standing up, and keeping the Tigers in the game. 

The Tigers would go onto win the game, 5-3, and they would then go on to St. Louis and win games 6 and 7 to win the World Series.

I loved Bill Freehan, and I would copy the way he played baseball, both as a catcher, and as a hitter.

I demanded that I wear uniform #11 in Little League, and when we played sandlot games with our friends, I was always William Ashley Freehan, my hero, my idol.

I always resented that the Detroit Tigers never retired #11 for Freehan, and when the team announced this year that they would retire #11 for the late Sparky Anderson, my emotions got the better of me, and I began to cry.

I loved what Sparky did for the Tigers, taking a team that were second division finishers, and leading them to a World Series title in 1984, but I never forgave the Tigers for letting another person to wear #11.

I have created a Facebook page, #11 Belongs to Bill Freehan, and I hope that my efforts, along with support for Tiger fans, will allow my hero, Bill Frerehan, to be honored, along with Sparky, when Old English D uniform #11 is retired later this year.

#11 and the game of baseball.

Do you have a favorite #11?

Did I forget someone?

Feel free to leave a comment, and if you agree with me that Bill Freehan deserves to be honored when #11 is retired, please click on the link above and join our effort to get the respect that Bill Freehan deserves.

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